Sunday, May 15, 2005

Alert the presses: I'm reading a book

I didn't enter the whole "50 book challenge" blog-game, a) to preserve the longstanding rumors about my illiteracy, and b) because most of what I've been reading for the past year has been about the French Jewish response to the Dreyfus Affair, and really, who among my bloggy readership cares? But now that the B.A. is done, and my literacy regained, I'm reading Love and Friendship by everyone's favorite flamboyant neocon from UChicago, the late Allan Bloom. From what I can tell, he thinks people cannot experience love without what amounts to a solid U of C education or its equivalent, and that political correctness, as well as a general inability to appreciate beauty have just about ruined American college students' (and Americans') ability to love. This is, I would say, complete bull, whether supported by Plato, Shakespeare, Flaubert, and Rousseau, or whether instant-messaged drunkenly and with no supporting texts. The appreciation of beauty necessary for love arrives the moment you have your first crush, which for most but not all arrives before the first encounter with the Symposium. Bloom, of course, cites plenty of the right sources, and has written a fine account of love as depicted by great writers, but makes an outrageous claim that probably couldn't be backed up. Bloom takes far too literally all the PC projects to combat "lookism" or to curtail male sexual desire. Perhaps at the dawn of the PC era there was actual fear that the movement would one day do such things, but it never did and if anything we as a society have gone in the opposite direction.

What's especially neat about Love and Friendship, though, is the reference to someone saying "where there's smoke there's fire" and that someone is none other than Alfred Dreyfus. Because what book could possibly be complete without that name finding its way into it? Because the Dreyfus Affair was really the affair of the millenium, with all sorts of androgynous two-person creatures being split in half and so forth. No wait, that was France that was split in half, and it did not respond to the split by yearning, but ended up entering World War I... Oh dear, brain=mush. I blame the endless refills of Florian coffee.


0 said...

You're in for quite a long ride. I'd suggest you simply turn to pp. 24-25 and read what appears to be the book's thesis: "In a better world, sexual education would be concerned with the development of taste." If you can swallow that, keep going. For a much more juicy romp on the same theme, read Ravelstein instead.

By the way, note the dedication.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I've read Ravelstein--that's what made me curious about Bloom himself.

0 said...

The dedication of Love and Friendship is to the young lover featured in Ravelstein. For what it's worth, The Closing of the American Mind is a much superior book, in my opinion at least. Love and Friendship is a bit of a mess.

Bloom, as you probably know, lived in the Cloisters. Bellow lived in the building next door.